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Matter and Form in the Science of Kabbalah

Overall, science subdivides into two parts: the first is called knowledge of matter, and the second is knowledge of form. This means that there is nothing in the surrounding reality in which matter and form could not be discerned.

Whatever we may research in our reality, everything is divided into two parts: matter and form in their simplest manifestations. For example, let us take a table. It consists of matter, say, wood, and possesses the form of table. Matter (wood) happens to be a carrier of the form (table). The same goes for the word “liar”. Its matter is a man, and its form is “liar”, so that the matter called man bears the form of falsehood.

This law applies to every object in the universe, both in our world and in the spiritual one. With regard to man, everything consists of two parts: matter and form. Whatever we may research, whether inanimate, vegetative, animate or human nature, the spiritual Sefirot, or our thoughts and feelings, our perception of any object regarding man is divided into these two parts. That is how we perceive reality.

In accordance with our perception, science is divided into two parts: one studies an object’s matter while the other studies its form, properties, and external manifestations. We have developed sciences in accordance with the way we perceive and research the surrounding world. However, if man had possessed other senses and felt reality differently, science would have naturally developed in a very different way. It would not have been divided into two parts: the research of matter and form. The division would have been different.

In studying man’s physiology, psychology, anatomy, we study his matter. This study is empiric in nature, it is based on solid evidence and a comparison of results from practical experiments, which science accepts as a reliable basis for veritable conclusions.

We register everything that we observe and research. This makes up the basis of our practical science. Repeatability of experiments and results is regarded as absolute truth, which makes up a foundation of science.

The other part of science analyzes only the abstract form unrelated to matter. However, nothing like that exists in our world. That is to say, I always have to attach every property that I reveal to the researched object.

Suppose I met someone, and I say that this person behaved in a certain way. By saying that, I mean that he possesses specific qualities: for example, falsity, truthfulness, kindness, or treachery. I apprehended these qualities through a certain object, through a person. Or, let’s take the properties of hardness, rigidity, linearity, multiplicity, etc. I grasp these properties in connection with some objects, and then I begin to study them abstractly. In other words, the forms of “truth” and “falsehood” are abstracted from matter, i.e., from the people who carry that form. These forms are regarded as meaningful or meaningless without being vested in some kind of matter. This is called the “knowledge of form.”

Here we have a problem: this kind of knowledge has no empirical basis. Such abstract forms may not be perceived by experimentally confirmed practice because they transcend reality.

We see that in practice the categories of falsehood, truth, kindness or craftiness do not exist in their “pure” form. These properties are always dressed in the person.

The abstract form is just a figment of the imagination and is non-existent in reality. We can only artificially detach the properties from their carrier and study them abstractly.

Any scientific research of this kind is based strictly on a theoretical supposition. It is unconfirmed by practical experiments, and is a result of a theoretical discussion. All high-flown philosophy is referred to this category.

Therefore, most modern scientists disregard it because they are thoroughly dissatisfied with the fruitless discussions based on theorizing, which in their view is a totally unreliable basis. Only an empirical basis can be regarded as reliable. It allows penetration of matter through form and the entrance of form through matter.

In this way, without detaching form from matter we can research it. Otherwise, the results of research cannot be considered veritable and the conclusions prove to be false. In other words, it is forbidden to study the properties abstractly.

Baal HaSulam says that our notion of the spiritual world is rather blurred. How do we imagine the Upper World? We begin to fantasize and make assumptions that it allegedly contains some abstract, imperceptible, artificially contrived property.

While observing various manifestations and properties in the surrounding world we believe that something similar should exist in the spiritual realm. That is to say, we abstract ourselves from reality and imagine some property that is detached from matter and call it spiritual. Of course in such a case we may fantasize endlessly.

As we study such properties as kindness or altruism we abstract them from man. This approach served as the basis of various communist and utopian theories, which subsequently were realized in matter through coercion. However, they have nothing to do with matter. Matter is totally egoistic, whereas the form devised by people is absolutely altruistic, so they have no point of contact with one another. We see examples in practice, such as the attempts to build socialism and communism in Russia or efforts to found kibbutzim in Israel.

Regretfully, that is the way we perceive the spiritual world. Anyone who wishes to can begin to fantasize about the Upper World. Since no one can feel it, people invent some properties, movements and abstract qualities that are totally baseless and detached from this world, and start manipulating them. As a result, various theories, which can be verified neither by their authors nor by others, spring-up and confuse humankind.

We know about many “spiritual” theories that occupy the minds of millions and billions of people. These philosophies, religions and beliefs are completely groundless and for thousands of years they have diverted people from the correct and empirical study of nature. It is said in Kabbalah: “The judge knows no more than his eyes can see,” and “One testifies not according to what he heard, but to what he saw.” That is to say, one can rely only on precise attainment..

From this we can understand the difference between the wisdom of Kabbalah and all other sciences. We understand what Kabbalah gives us. It enables man to see, feel, and attain the tangible manifestation of both matter and form in their inseparability, when every object of our and the spiritual worlds is empirically apprehended.

In Kabbalah we cannot detach form from matter. The Kabbalist perceives, researches and attains them simultaneously. Hence, there is no contradiction and no need to fantasize and contrive various new theories.

The science of Kabbalah is also subdivided into two aforementioned parts: the knowledge of matter and the knowledge of form. However, as compared with conventional science even the attainment of form is based on scientific research of empiric perception, i.e., it relies exclusively on practical experience.

What is the benefit of the science of Kabbalah? By developing an additional sense organ, man enters the hitherto unknown, concealed part of the universe. He begins working there in exactly the same way he works in the revealed part of the universe. The knowledge obtained from this research is most reliable because it is empirically proven.

Hence it is said: “The judge knows no more than his eyes can see,” and “That which is not attained cannot be named.” In other words, in defining an object, we name one of its properties only after it has been completely apprehended.

According to Kabbalah, an attainment is the most profound degree of understanding, when the person grasps not only the object per se and its form, but also the higher level where this object originated. The term “origin” implies formulating a goal for the object’s existence, as well as all transformations it undergoes in the chain of cause-and-effect connections, until it acquires its final form. Therefore, if I study some material or spiritual object, I research it from the moment it appeared; learn about the cause of its origin and everything that should happen to it until its complete correction. The sum total of knowledge about the object is referred to in Kabbalah as an attainment.

The difference between the science of Kabbalah and all other sciences lies in the fact that every science has its definite range of research, and its capacity is limited by the sensitivity of our five sense organs and devices. The science of Kabbalah provides the person with an unlimited capacity to perceive. However, one should never forget that research must remain within the limits of objective reality as Kabbalists rely exclusively on what they clearly perceive.

Therefore, they exercised extreme caution in divulging this knowledge during the five thousand years of Kabbalah’s existence (this is evident from literary and scientific sources). We see in “The Study of the Ten Sefirot” and other works, where Baal HaSulam explains everything with utter precision.

Where he transcends another Kabbalist’s capacity of comprehension, he explains that information with the words: “This is followed by a personal assumption.” That is to say, he hints at something while stressing that it is merely his opinion. All of his suppositions are precisely stipulated, unless they are based on accurate analysis and apprehension. He states: “I cannot attain this, but I am allowed to assume so.” An uncorroborated piece of information is never accepted as reliable scientific data, either by the author himself or by those who study his books.

Thus, the science of Kabbalah is similar to all other natural sciences; only its range of perception is broader. Like all other sciences it is based on man’s attainment. Only that which we attain, measure, reproduce, register, and pass on to others can be defined as scientific data. Form and matter are not detached from one another, but are studied together.

At the same time, it is significant that such categories as “falsehood”, “truth,” “kindness,” “egoism,” and “altruism”, which constitute an incomprehensible form in conventional sciences, are empirically apprehended in Kabbalah. Both psychology and philosophy study them as abstractions, utterly unconnected with matter.

The science of Kabbalah studies the properties based on matter. This matter is called “egoism”, and is perceived as the object of research. Hence, the part that is considered the apprehension of a form in conventional science constitutes an absolutely tangible, scientific, and reliable attainment of matter in Kabbalah.

This perception in the newly acquired, additional sense organ is called the “soul”, “screen”, or the “reflected light”. What is perceived in this new sense is called spiritual attainment.

Spiritual attainment is possible only if man’s properties coincide with the outer properties, while outside of man there exists only one governing force. Kabbalists refer to it as “the Creator.” To the extent of man’s equivalence of form with the Creator, he measures and analyzes his new property, feels its manifestation in his own matter, or, in other words, apprehends it. Since this property is similar to the Creator, we can speak about His attainment.

As soon as I begin attaining Him (i.e., gradually becoming similar to the Creator), I enter into the Upper Worlds. What is the meaning of “the Upper Worlds”? The word “world” (Olam) is a derivative of Alamah – concealment. As I gradually create the spiritual Kli (my similarity to the Creator) within me, I gradually attain Him.

A person can acquire the Kli while ascending 125 spiritual levels. They are referred to as “125 levels of worlds”. Gradual revelation of the Creator is defined as a gradual ascent in the worlds, the creation of the spiritual Kli, and the realization of the property called “the Creator” that seemingly exists beyond me. The word “seemingly” indicates that I cannot possibly feel anything outside my senses.

Thus, man reveals all the worlds existing within him that are nothing but partial degrees of his similarity to the Creator.

Question: We see that the Creator is a giver. So let’s imagine what it is to be a “giver.” Don’t we risk seeking similarity to completely unreal forms and going astray?

Kabbalah does not instruct us to seek similarity to imaginary things. It tells us that a person changes only to the extent of his attainment. We should try to create within us the Kli, a sensor that will perceive this external property and let us tangibly and objectively feel what we lack.

I should not do anything of what I see on the blackboard or in a book. I do not know what it is, I do not want it, and it will not succeed anyway. Kabbalah does not tell you to become a righteous altruist and love all as of today. Well, you can try… and see what will come of it. Most probably you will enter such states that will lead you to false, ostentatious actions. This is not our method at all.

What is the Kabbalistic method? I have to understand my condition. Everything begins with the realization of the present moment. This is called the “realization of evil”. Eventually it turns out that I am immersed in egoism, in a property that is opposite to the Creator. However, I am totally unaware of that and I need to reveal it by myself. I have no idea what it is. People may repeat to me that I am an evil egoist, but unless I realize it within, their words will be lost to me.

Kabbalistic education forbids any kind of coercion. Any pressure is regarded as “Mussar” (moralizing) and is unacceptable in Kabbalah. Neither children nor adults are ever given any instructions. Note that I speak about the Kabbalistic education, not the religious one. All religions have their prohibitions. In Kabbalah we say: “Naturally, you are an egoist, and whatever you do deserves neither reward nor punishment because you were created this way.” Reward, punishment and free will come much later. Therefore, the Kabbalistic education excludes any form of compulsion and pressure.

The Baal HaSulam speaks about the sin of the so-called “civilized” nations that impose their culture and way of life on primitive peoples. This destroys the correct, natural development of man, which must be based on the realization of evil in his present state and finding a better, more advanced condition. This chain evolves in accordance with the law of negation of the negation.

I need to see how evil my state is so that the power of realization will become my driving force and will propel me toward my next, higher level. “Higher” means anti-egoistical, and I will need some energy to rise above my animate state. I receive this energy because I realize my present state as evil, as a disease, which I cannot bear anymore. When all this manifests in man, he can develop naturally and independently. This is how we ascend the spiritual levels.

One should not think that it is possible to skip a stage by revealing a mystery or following someone’s advice. A person can rise from one level to another only if he cannot remain in his present condition. The history of humankind confirms that. Look at all the suffering that people had to go through over thousands of years, and it is still insufficient to make them realize their state as evil. It seems to us that during 5 to 10 thousand years we have been developing, advancing. In reality, we stand still like an obstinate donkey and receive blows until we finally realize the necessity of moving forward.

We have not advanced with regard to spirituality. Hence, our world is called Domem (still, inanimate). We just accumulate blows, which ultimately will make us realize the fallaciousness of our state. We have been in this state since the beginning of human history and continue to remain in it until today.

In our time we hear more and more that we have reached a state, when all of our cultural, technological, scientific, philosophical and social achievements, all that humanity has engaged in for thousands of years (politics, money, social development, and education) have gradually led us toward a universal crisis, collapse. While looking back, humanity sees that for all these thousands of years we have been suffering without realizing that we need to learn something, that this path is wrong. However, as you see from history, two more world wars and even more horrible sufferings may take place until humankind accumulates sufficient experience. Only then will it be able to advance to the next level.

All that happens with humanity also occurs in every individual because the general law states: “Klal uPrat Shavim” (“the general and the particular are equal”). All that happens in the entire world, in one collective image of man, and in every one of us is the same.

It turns out that we will not be able to get out of our present egoistical state. Like a donkey that receives one blow after another, yet continues to stand still, we will suffer until we realize our own evil and finally say: “Enough is enough!” Then we will start moving.

If so, then what is the point of our existence? The point is that we can accelerate the realization of evil under the influence of the Upper Light, in contrast to the spiritual energy (Ohr Makif) that imperceptibly affects us during our studies. That is to say, we merely speed up our maturing process. We cannot advance without this sensation of evil. We may be an inch from the Machsom and still fail to cross it without this final blow.

We see this in our daily life. Sometimes we suffer and we know what should be changed, but all the same we can do nothing about it. The mind understands what to do, but there is no strength (realization of evil) to do it.

Therefore, our studies should be based on this idea. We should feel this evil “Be Atzamot” (in our bones). Our studies and work in the group, which so clearly demonstrate our condition, should lead us to this realization. This is the only purpose of our studies and work. Only for this purpose did Kabbalists write their books for us. We do not understand what they write, but the Light descends and shows the contrast between itself and our state, and we feel the consequence of this contrast. The Light brings positive, altruistic energy, but we feel bad with regard to it. We feel that we fall just when it affects us and reveals its form. I abhor it most of all because I feel my opposition to it.

I have to show my love and care for others in the group. Every member of the group is obliged to force himself to demonstrate it and not to be a concealed righteous man. Then another person will feel bad. In this respect everyone has to act as regards another as the Ohr Makif with regard to us all.

Question: What exactly do we attain while ascending the levels of worlds?

It seems to us that we possess a great number of qualities, but this is not quite so. Kabbalists do not study human qualities and properties. They determine them strictly according to their direction: either it is an egoistical property (for oneself), or it is an altruistic property (for bestowal). To whom can we give? We can bestow only upon the One who gives to us. The rest does not matter.

This is similar to the Sefirot. In every state there is a certain combination of Sefirot that are either aimed at reception (Klipa) or at bestowal upon the Creator. Depending on man’s level, the extent of both reception and bestowal can be greater or smaller. The general Kli combines the basic qualities, 9 first Sefirot; hence everyone perceives a different picture.

Worlds constitute our inner Kli, which in turn consists of 125 levels of revelation, or gradual correction of egoism and development of the altruistic intention (for the sake of bestowal). My egoism is revealed to me in the following way. First, I acquire the screen on its 125th part and in it I feel the corrected property (my congruence with the Creator).

This first correction may be called my first spiritual level. The next Kli reveals an additional portion of egoism. I acquire the screen again and attain the 2nd level of correction. The degree and quality of this correction allows me to say: “I have attained the Creator by 2/125th.” This corresponds to my ascent from Malchut of the world of Assiya to Yesod of the world of Assiya. And so on. That is what the worlds are.

The volume of my corrected desire is called a world of my attainment. Today, since I have not corrected myself in similarity to the Creator, I am at the preliminary level called “our world.” This is the same egoism in which I feel the Creator in my natural properties, but all for myself. This state is called “my world.”

Man perceives nothing else but the Light, which created him and fills and sustains his egoism. Even now I feel the Creator, albeit in the lowest state (called “our world”) that is most opposite to Him.

Such a state is not regarded spiritual. It is not the attainment of the Upper World because it lacks any similarity to the Creator. Yet, even in this and all subsequent, higher states I perceive my own desire: the degree of its correction. I feel everything inside of me, inside my desire. Nothing else exists. I am confined within myself. That is the way our desire (creation) was created. We study it in four phases of the direct Light’s development.

Here I would like to add that the ascending from one of 125 spiritual levels to another up to the Gmar Tikkun takes place not because I increase my desire. My desire is a fixed, invariable unit. I can increase it only by attaching other desires to it. That is to say, the ascent from one level to the next is conditioned on the merging of souls, or desires of others. By attaching other people’s desires to my own I expand my Kli.

Therefore, we may say this: beside my own, there are 125 other external Kelim. By attaching one of them to myself I acquire an additional desire. To “attach” means to correct. I correct myself as an altruist. It is impossible to do in any other way because attachment comes through love, when all egoistical partitions between two objects are removed. Thus, I attach someone else’s 125th part to my own 125th part. 2/125th form my corrected Kli, in which I feel my next corrected level, and so on.

What I am trying to say is that the growth of egoism, of the spiritual Kli occurs not because of its own development, but due to its ability to attach other souls. Therefore, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is considered the “general rule of Kabbalah.” In other words, this is the general law of reception of Light. However, attachment of souls is possible only with the help of love. There is no other way but to perceive other people’s desires as your own. Hence, only the merging of souls can elevate us from one level to the next. While ascending each of 125 spiritual levels, man is obliged to increase his Kli by 1/ In other words, he has to enhance his union with other souls.

Question: How can the work on the realization of the Creator’s greatness accelerate the realization of evil?

The work on the realization of the Creator’s greatness is our principle concern because this way we try to position ourselves correctly with regard to Him. In other words, we aspire to form in ourselves a correct model of the universe. What will I gain from it? I was told that He is great, so should I now try to imagine it?

In reality, the following thing happens. I wish to attract onto myself the surrounding Light, i.e., to perform some artificial action. It is artificial because my natural action presupposes simple development (the way the entire humanity evolves by receiving blows). “Derech Yisurim” (path of suffering) is a natural path on which egoism receives blows until man feels the need to do something and begins to run away from them. When nothing else helps, he begins to realize that it is better for him to renounce his egoism. Death seems preferable to such life!

Such is our natural, normal path. What can we do to accelerate our advancement? We can attract some supernatural forces of development. This means that we can artificially put ourselves in a state, which we have not achieved yet, but are obliged to reach.

Many questions arise here. Do we not ruin our correct development? Do we not harm ourselves by going in the wrong direction and losing our way?

The answer is very simple: the AHP (the opposite part) of the higher level is in us. We just need to adapt ourselves to it. In my present state I actually see and feel this world. I appraise it and can more or less adapt myself to it. Besides, I have some idea about the so-called spiritual world.

The spiritual world is merely my next state. How can I imagine it? I should not imagine it at all. It will not be good if I imagine it; it will lead me to philosophy, religion, or goodness knows what else.

On no account should I imagine anything but one thing: that the Upper Force that controls me now is what I want to attain. It is incomparably better than me in its qualities. I ought to reveal it rather than to remain in my present state, in this world. That is all I have to do. I do not fantasize about any new forms and do not imagine any pictures.

I say that the Creator is great and that my task is to feel it because already now I imagine my future level desirable. I can stand still and wait until a sufficient number of blows compel me to pass to the next state. However, if now, before all these blows befall me, I see my future state as better than the present one, then I will neither have to wait for a number of years, nor suffer thousands of blows that I can simply avoid.

What does it mean to avoid blows? In any case I have to realize that my present state is evil. All the same I will feel bitter and desperate in my present situation, as if I have received all the blows.

How can I drive myself into this situation? Who will want to go through such despair and depression? A human being cannot desire it. Our egoism will not allow that. So what are we going to do? We increase the Creator’s greatness in our eyes. In this case our aspiration for positive advancement substitutes for painful blows. That is to say, I need to start moving, either under the influence of the positive force that pulls me forward, or spurred by the negative force, which will press and hit me from behind. Kabbalists suggest that we should use the positive force, imagine that the Creator is great and decide that it is worth it for us to attain Him. Your present state is corrupt because you are detached from Him.

If you imagine it correctly and if your society helps you to perceive it correctly, then, naturally, you will feel bitter and desperate. However, you will feel this way because you long for something better, and not because you suffer from blows in your present state. This is something totally different.

You will suffer all the same, but this will be the suffering of love. When we love and pine away, we suffer of course, but no one would give up this state and remain an animal because there is a foretaste of a future merging and fulfillment.

This is the difference between the path of Light and the path of suffering. The realization of evil is inevitable, but it will be perceived in a totally different way. Imagine that in one case something very attractive urges you to rush forward, and in another case you receive such blows that you are forced to run away from suffering. The result is the same, but the sensations in the process are quite opposite.

However, man barely learns. The Creator sends him world wars and crises. So what? Of course, this is a cumulative process, but it will take a long time until it transforms the consciousness of people and compels them to arrive at the correct conclusion.

Question: In which case does the process of the realization of evil become deliberate?

The process of the realization of evil becomes deliberate and fast. Most importantly, it is based on the attainment of the higher level, on attraction of the Light. Rather than blows that come from behind, the same role is played by the surrounding Light (Ohr Makif).

The Light creates a void, which it does not enter, because the most important thing is to create a Kli. In order to rise to the next level one should have a Kli, an additional desire. This additional desire appears in us under the influence of the surrounding Light. The Ohr Makif shows us that unless we join the common Kli, soul (which is clearly felt in the spiritual) by 1/125th part more than the previous time, we will not receive that additional volume in which the Creator can be perceived.

Question: There are two aspects in the attainment of the Creator: the general and the particular. The question is how much am I dependent on the group?

Unless the group impresses on me the Creator’s importance, I will have no strength to advance toward Him. I will be moving under blows, as I did before, without the group. Perhaps, being united with the group to some extent, I will feel harsher blows and will be progressing faster.

Therefore, the point is this: if I work in the group, then based on my individual effort I deserve to rise to the next level, i.e., form this inner Kli. Do I have to wait until my friends also reach this state?

Question: Should all members of the group have equal sensation of realization of evil?

No they should not. A group may consist of beginners who hardly understand what they do. I am regarded to be working in the group only on the condition that they aspire to the Goal. This does not refer to their knowledge or level of attainment. The matter concerns their aspiration. If they aspire, then their spiritual level and their degree of realization are totally unimportant. A great person may be a member of a small group and at the same time receive everything he needs for his spiritual ascent.

It is quite another matter when people engage in the Science and already discuss purely spiritual attainments. In that case each group member’s level and property are of great importance. In past generations people could ascend individually; certain souls received desires and were elevated.

Now we are in a state of the entire world’s general ascent. Hence, the question may be formulated this way: will we deserve to rise to the next level before we serve the world on its present level? There is a real problem here. Today the world is obliged to rise as a whole. Therefore, although we will deserve some spiritual elevation, all the same they are determined by our participation in the world’s spiritual advancement. In other words, an individual’s spiritual ascent does not depend on him; this is rather the advancement of the common Kli.

Question: Does everyone have to realize the necessity of crossing the Machsom?

Everyone will cross the Machsom individually.

Question: What should unite a group? Does everyone have to concentrate on the same thought?

Unless everyone in the group concentrates on the same thought, this is not a group. A group implies that all of its members share the same aspiration.

Question: There are so many people here. How can I know what they aspire to?

A group with many people is not a group. A real group means that all of its members are as one person. Otherwise, it is something else. A Kabbalistic group consists of people who share one single goal and adhere only to it. Nothing else exists! There may be 50 people in the group, but its core is made up of 5 people.

Question: Many different, distracting thoughts keep constantly coming to my head during the lesson. How does it work?

This is a good sign that determines the growth of the Kli. However, we know exactly to what thoughts we have to return every minute, what purpose in life we have, and what is most important for us. A group cannot exist without it.

Question: What is the meaning of “inner enthusiasm”?

Enthusiasm, ardor can start with the most realistic and simple things. When it comes, we should carefully check what it is. Since we work against our egoism, everything should be planned. Egoism constantly leads us astray and pulls us in the direction of its fulfillments. Therefore, our work against it should not be based on enthusiasm.

The inspiration that you can feel in your normal state will always be egoistical. A group should have a precise program or plan. We have to know what we do today, how we remind each other about our common goal, how every one of us keeps it in his mind, what notes and reminders we use, and so on. This is a very laborious and incessant effort. Baal HaSulam describes in his letters and articles how a person should return to the right thought.

He writes about the best state of all on page 70 in the book of his collected letters: “When you are constantly (!) connected with the Creator like a man who is infatuated with a passion, when your eyes see only Him…”, it indicates how intense your desire is. Yet, a person has to work very hard in order to achieve such a state.

It comes under the influence of the Ohr Makif. Our problem is that we forget about the Light’s influence. It seems to us that we forcibly have to develop an aspiration for spirituality. We cannot do that and will always move in the opposite direction. The spiritual aspiration appears only under the influence of the Light

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